News: Jacksonville Center USO helps troops and families
Story by Lance Cpl. Ryan Joyner
JACKSONVILLE, N.C. -- At hundreds of locations around the world, the United Service Organization lifts the spirits of service members and their families. The USO is a nonprofit, volunteer organization to help make the lives of service members and their families easier.
The USO was established February 1941 at the presidential request of Franklin D. Roosevelt for civilian support of the military. After World War II, the USO was dissolved and its facilities closed. Re-activated for the Korean War in the 1950s, the USO has served the morale and recreational needs of service members and their families ever since according to the USO’s website.
Deborah Fisher, The Jacksonville Center USO director, said the center has remained open through the determined efforts of its volunteers and remains the longest continuously operating USO in the world.
When service members deploy or return home, the USO is there for support. No matter what the time or what the weather is like, volunteers are on-site to hand out care packages, provide comfort and assist service members and their families, said Fisher.
The Jacksonville USO is open every day of the week. On weekdays, it is open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The center is open on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
There are many programs and amenities available for visitors of the USO, such as hosting events and staying in contact with family members during deployments by creating videos and care packages.
Computers are available for patrons to use, as well as a family area with a snack bar. There is also a television and lounge where visitors can sit and relax or play pool and Ping-Pong.
“For service members and their families that are struggling, the USO has a pantry full of nonperishable food items available for them in times of need,” said Fisher. “There is also a full kitchen where hot meals can be made.”
Service members must be an E-5 and below to qualify for assistance.
The Jacksonville center also has the Smiles Over Miles program, said Fisher. The program allows families of deployed service members to make videos with personal messages to send to their loved ones overseas.
“With a stage and a ballroom, the USO is a great place for units to hold events,” said Fisher. “Units have their functions here because it’s more of a relaxed atmosphere.”
The USO in North Carolina is mostly funded by generous donations from individuals and businesses. A small group of full-time employees and approximately 700 volunteers keep the organization up and running to support nearly a quarter of a million patrons each year during events such as departures, homecomings and unit functions.
For more information, visit http://www.uso-nc.org or call 910-455-3411